All I can think of is being five years old
Following behind you at the beach
Tracing your footprints in the sand
Trying to walk like a man
-- Bruce Springsteen
Lakeland, Fla. – I walked out of the clubhouse the other day following a game and just happened to look out into right field.
There was Bryan Holaday doing some post-game conditioning drills with one of the strength coaches. Alongside him, trying to do the same drills was his Thomas, who is 3 and a half years old. I wish I would have filmed it because it was priceless.
Little Doc was trying to do exactly what his pops was doing, but he’d invariably fall behind and then fall down from trying too hard to catch up. His plucky spirit never wavered, though. He picked himself up and got back after it.
After every spring game at Marchant Stadium, Alex Wilson walks from the bullpen toward the picnic tables outside the clubhouse. His family is sitting there waiting for him and the look on his son’s face when he sees his father, I mean, you’d have to be a pretty cold person not to be moved.
One day after a game the clubhouse was empty except for Wilson sitting in front of his locker with his son in his lap.
Last year, former Tiger Hernan Perez would pitch plastic whiffle balls to his son, who was wielding a plastic bat bigger than he was. It was inside the clubhouse, but nobody was worried about little Hernan connecting. A couple of stalls over, Tyler Collins would woof on the kid’s swing in Spanish.
Who’s mad about this? Who thinks it’s a bad thing for players to have their kids with them in the clubhouse or at the yard? Who does it hurt? What does it hurt?
Anybody who has been around the Tigers the last three or four years has watched Little Victor Martinez grow up – to the point now where it feels a little funny calling him Little Vic. We joke that we kind of feel like we’ve helped raise him – though that’s ridiculous. Victor and wife Margret get all the credit for that.
But you get the point. Little Vic has become as much a part of the clubhouse as any of the players. They all love him – as far as I can tell. We in the media love him, too. The kid is personable, smart, polite and a helluva player.
During the season, he comes to the park with his dad, has a clubhouse stall next to his dad’s (it’s actually Big Victor’s auxiliary locker), puts his pre-game uniform on just like his dad, complete with batting gloves.
He warms up with players, even does long toss with them. He shags balls in the outfield.
Again, who does it hurt? He’s not in anybody’s way. He’s not disrupting anybody’s routine. He’s old enough and skilled enough that he’s not in danger out there.
To me, that these guys get to have their kids around them at the ballpark is part of what makes playing for the Tigers (and other teams with similar policies) so desirable for them. When they say it’s a family, they mean it literally.
The argument that White Sox general manager Kenny Williams used in the case of Adam LaRoche and his son Drake -- that there aren’t many businesses that allow their employees to bring their kids to work, and that is why day care was invented – doesn’t wash for me.
We’re not talking about working in a law office or accounting firm. We’re not talking about employees who work 9 to 5 and have weekends off. Baseball players are away from their families way too much. They are gone for two months for spring training, then once the season starts, it’s a 162-game grind with 81 road games.
That’s a nine-month span where players get very little quality time with their families.
Unless they can bring their kids to the park for home games. That should not only be allowed, but encouraged.
Sure, there are times when the clubhouse needs to be closed to everybody except the players. That’s happened plenty of times and the kids just go out and hang with their mothers until dad is ready for them.
Sure, there may be instances where a kid is too immature or bratty. There could be instances when somebody’s kid was a distraction in the clubhouse. But those could be dealt with on an individual basis.
To me -- a father of three who had to travel a lot when my kids were young and missed out on way too many of their special moments – I get vicarious pleasure out of seeing these father-son moments every day at the ballpark. I want to tell these guys how lucky they are to get to share these moments with their kids – but they already know.
You can think what you want about Adam LaRoche, that he’s crazy for walking away from $13 million or whatever – but I applaud him. When he says there is nothing more important to him than fatherhood and raising his son, well, he put his money where his mouth is, didn’t he.
Good for him. And good for the Tigers for facilitating some quality family time for their players.